White t-shirt stories are…
A series of candid conversations with creative and interesting people, uncovering their values and style.
Amanda Carr is..
A fragrance enthusiast, esteemed trend forecaster and co-founder of The Women’s Room blog.
EON: I know you’re a fan of The White T-shirt Co and I see you’re wearing the Breton style today…
AC: Yes. I’ve got about four different shapes from The White T-shirt Co and they all have their own particular niche in the wardrobe.
I’ve got a long sleeved crew neck I really like because it has that classic utility feel to it. The Breton one’s like a summer t-shirt, I really like the length of the sleeve because I’m always pushing my sleeves up, I never have them down, so I like that this has been semi done for me. It just comes underneath the elbow so there’s a really elegant line there.
The reason why I love these t-shirts is that they really are stonkingly well made and the fabric is unbeatable, it’s fantastic! It spoils you for other brands.
EON: I think what’s also great is that you get a little insight into the provenance of these t-shirts too…
AC: My feeling is that the consumer really wants that story, desperately. Your wardrobe becomes much more of a focus if you’re buying less. You’re more laser focused on what you’ve got and why you’ve got it and items need to stand up on their own. And good quality is not enough, I mean that sounds crazy doesn’t it? But I don’t think good quality or good design is enough anymore.
We write, on The Women’s Room, about women who are mostly 40+, we are the readership, both Jane (co-founder) and I. At that age you’ve got everything you need, you’ve already bought everything half a dozen times. We are really experienced buyers and super critics so if we are buying any more it’s got to be really, really good.
EON: I think that the white t-shirt is a wardrobe essential. What other pieces do you wear on a daily basis?
AC: I’m a shirt and trousers girl. I have about four pairs of jeans. Winter smart jeans, summer smart jeans and then weekend jeans for both. I’ve really loved the denim trend that’s been out there for the last couple of years, the sort of interesting stuff that’s been happening around both clean and raw denim and then the more distressed patch work denim.
I buy a lot of vintage clothes, not just because of the sustainability factor but because there are so many interesting things. It’s a different way of shopping. I like the discovery element of a vintage sale because you just don’t know what you’re going to find. You’ve got beautiful sewing techniques, amazing fabrics, interesting shapes and all of that makes for a more interesting wardrobe. But you can’t do vintage 100%, you have to calm it down.
Hammersmith Vintage is my total favourite, it’s beautifully curated. I also go to Portobello and I go to Kempton Park Antiques, which is fantastic. You feel like you’re really amongst the people at the beginning of the chain, people who have just literally unpacked their Granny’s wardrobe from the attic and turned it out to a dealer and that’s where the exciting buys are. But you’ve got to invest in time and effort to get those pieces looking better again because they usually need a bit of a care, which I also quite like doing…
EON: I know The Women’s Room is something you do in addition to your ‘day job’, how do all these different roles influence each other?
AC: Yes, so I have many hats now! I do trend forecasting for a company called WGSN. Last year I set up a fragrance blog called We Wear Perfume because I think that buying fragrance is an incredibly tricky business. Last year there were over 2,500 new fragrances launched on top of the 10,000 that are already out there. You don’t have the joy of a visual prompt with a fragrance, so as a retail trend forecaster I saw a couple of years ago how incredibly hard it is to find the perfect fragrance for yourself and what an opportunity there was to help the consumer to find it. ‘We wear perfume’ is, if you like, a style blog or style site for fragrance.
I’ve been very much entrenched in fragrance and learning about that industry, so now I write fragrance trends of WGSN as well.
EON: I didn’t even know ‘fragrance trends’ existed..
AC: I know! It’s a really interesting industry because it is so old fashioned; it’s a bit like the wine industry was in France in the 80’s, you know, stuck in a rut.
I think with fragrance the consumer wants to buy more but it’s just very hard to do because a lot of people already feel they’ve got enough stuff. They don’t want more stuff, they want more experience and fragrance is the most experiential product you can buy because you’re buying a feeling, you’re buying an emotion you’re buying memories or you’re creating a new story for yourself with new fragrance.
EON: Are you a one perfume person of have you got quite a few?
AC: Oh I used to be maybe a four perfume person but now I have a cocktail cabinet full of just the latest launches, and mixing them together is a really interesting thing to do. And it’s really easy, it’s a bit like wearing clothes. You wouldn’t just wear one white t-shirt, you’d put a jacket with it or you’d accessorise it with jewellery or you’d wear it with a scarf. That’s what you’re doing when layering fragrance.
You may have a fragrance that you love but then you’ll add another bit to it to make it more you. It’s not difficult at all. It’s slightly held in smoke and mirrors. Again it’s marketing from the big French brands, highlighting that it takes years to create this marvellous smell. It might do, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have a lot of fun with it.
EON: Moving onto The Women’s Room blog, I know both you and your co-founder Jane worked for WGSN together, is that how you met?
AC: Yes, yes we did. Jane did product, she’s brilliant at colour so she did colour trends and product trends and I was doing retail trends but we were both aware that in any area, the 40+ consumer was almost totally ignored, even though we knew they still had money and passion for clothes and for looking amazing. The older woman was just not on the radar so we wanted to firstly help consumers like us who wanted to look good but couldn’t find product and secondly, to have a bit of a rant about the industry! Because we were insiders and read by people who were in fairly influential positions, we knew that they were listening. So we took the opportunity to say, where are the clothes for us?
EON: Everyone knows that the fashion industry is youth obsessed. Why do you think it is, given your previous observation about money?
AC: For lots of different reasons I think. Again, the fashion industry is obsessed with youth and always will be because youth shows the clothes off better. The industry is also staffed by a lot of young people. All the PR people that we deal with are around 25 years old. Because you work at such a pace in this industry, you burn out pretty easily so there’s a lot of young, enthusiastic people straight from college. Young models are used because no one seems to be brave enough to use an older model on the catwalk, or very few are, so it’s sort of self perpetuating. Almost everyone’s young and they’re all looking at young and they’re all talking about young and all the influences are often cool young bands or artists so you know, it’s youth centric.
Whereas of course older generations are not what their mothers were. You might have retired at 60 in my mum’s generation, now at 60 we still feel 40 and we’re busy, still working our careers out. So our mindset is different, we’re still thinking young, we’re still thinking we want to look great. So we’re ahead of the fashion industry a little bit in that we’re there wanting the product, wanting the fashion stimulation and we’ve got nothing, or very little, coming our way.
It’s not about age, it’s about attitude. It’s not about fashion, it’s about style and that never goes out of date really. I’m ever hopeful that it will change. Much like the sustainability issue, it’s a big machine the fashion machine and to change even the smallest thing takes an enormous amount of time and a giant amount of pushing. So age and sustainability kind of have the same problems to overcome… trying to get your industry to change, it’s tricky.
EON: How has the role of fashion changed in your life in terms of your relationship with clothes?
AC: Clothes have always been important for me, I think you’re born into clothing. Some people just get dressed and that’s enough for them and there are other people who have just loved clothes from the moment we were born, and I’m one of those. When I was growing up I experimented with personalities with clothes, I hopped about from being a frilly Laura Ashley girl to being something a bit more Joseph-y and a bit more sleek.
Clothes have come with me though my life journey and I reference my memories I think, through outfits. As I’ve got older I have learnt to calm down and as I know myself, my wardrobe has stopped being quite so experimental and I know what I like. I like to be prepared for anything. I march, so I only wear flat shoes now, I never wear heels because although they’re cute, they’re totally useless for my life. I like pockets in things. I love trousers, these are Margaret Howell actually and I love them because they look smart and they’re quite cool because they’re cut off and they’ve got giant pockets that fit everything in. They’re really comfortable and they’re beautifully made so I feel confident in them.
If I’m badly dressed, I really can’t function properly. I’ve got to be wearing the right clothes for my mindset otherwise it’s all a mess. Similarly with fragrance, if I’m not wearing the right one then I’m not quite thinking properly.
Which sounds very shallow doesn’t it…!
EON: You cover quite a lot of diverse topics on your blog, is there a certain sector in particular that you enjoy writing about?
AC: Well it is perfume at the moment because my head is in perfume. When you’ve been writing a blog about age for so long, one of the things that really frustrates you is just how slow things are to change. So when you find product that is fantastically age and gender free, it’s just joyous. I love the fact that I’ve been able to convince people to buy stuff from any age, of any size, it’s just a glorious thing. People get so much enjoyment from finding the right fragrance that it’s a very rewarding thing to write about and to introduce people to.
EON: If I was looking for a new scent, which brand would you encourage me to look at?
AC: I would say that first of all there are lots of brands out there so this is purely today’s comment. It could change, and will change, next week but I’m really impressed with what Miller Harris is doing at the moment. It’s got some really cracking fragrances coming out. If you were to say ‘I want to buy a better fragrance but I don’t know how’, I’d say start off there and have a little potter through. You’re unlikely to come out smelling bad.
Interview conducted [September 2016] and editing for post by Eleanor O'Neill: www.study34.co.uk
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